The Cost of Writing
This post originally appeared on Medium.com.
Writing is hard, and most don’t make it big, or even make a living. But we do it for the love of the craft.
I received a support ticket today that may echo your own feelings from time to time.
I was attracted to your product for the plot-related features, but for the price you’re charging, found them lacking, non-intuitive, and not clearly explained.
I’m tired of small, one-person startups creating yet another failed, partial-featured fiction outlining/writing app. It’s tragi-comical to see each developer get one or two parts right, but then ridiculously stumbling on other parts. Due to ignorance or stubbornness to properly consult with others before product launch, each of you are creating a hot mess, and rather than seriously revamp it, you add a few further warts, and then eventually becoming abandonware, littering the market with yet another needless failure.
I appreciate the candid feedback. This individual supplied the answer to their own frustrations.
Many writers are not willing to pay much for their tools. Most other professional industries charge $20-$50/month or more, but the consumers of that software also make more. Writers often do it for the love, with a day job to support them. It makes sense they are price sensitive. I’ve even found full-time authors to be price sensitive.
Without a lot of money in this industry, investors can’t expect a great return on investment. They aren’t willing to go up against the free Google Docs or the established Microsoft Word in hopes make a return.
This leaves us with a lot of software “by writers for writers.” Just like their customers, these developers do it for the love of the craft, not the money.
There are many free tools, or tools priced too low. These die out once their builder’s need for income is greater than the passion brought. The smart ones charge enough to build a company that will last. They get pushback from individuals like Noreply above. Too expensive. You didn’t build exactly what I want. Unfortunately, writing processes are as unique as their writers. But do you really want to slog through 60,000–200,000 words in a single Word doc?
Good software costs money. In an industry with little investment dollars, the customers are the ones that end up as investors in the software. That is why companies like Dabble and Novlr publish a roadmap on their website. It is their own Kickstarter for customers. A promise of things to come, if you invest in us.
We can’t build everything before launch, but we can build enough to show you what we are about. We can sell you on the promise of where we are going. We can earn your trust through dedicated customer support.
We can get there together. You and me. We can grow Dabble into the tool you need.
We all do it for the love of the craft. And maybe, we can even get paid doing it.
If you are interested in tools for writers, please check out Dabble. Write, plot, and edit your novel in the browser or desktop, online and offline, automatic sync between computers , and many more features. But most of all, easy to use.
Behind-the-scenes: Novlr (priced the same as Dabble), only got its first full-time employee after 4 years since launch. Dabble is on track to do the same after 2 years, though I’ve been working on it for 4 years. I have invested tens of thousands of dollars into it and thousands of hours. Why? For the love! Also, my customers are the best anyone could ask for.
The Chosen One. It’s a trope that many people love to hate despite its pervasiveness across popular culture. If you’re unfamiliar with the Chosen One, it’s a popular trope or narrative device used across books, TV shows, and movies where a character is destined to fulfill a certain role or mission, often because they have unique abilities or traits. These traits are frequently tied to magic, meaning you’ll see this trope a lot in fantasy and other types of speculative fiction, especially those with a young adult audience.
So how do you write well then? Realistically, there are a few things universally considered “good” writing. The story should follow a logical plot where one action feeds into another. The characters should behave in ways that align with their established personalities. There should be some high points and low points and stuff in between. Generally, good writing is also well edited and follows most of the conventions for grammar and punctuation. While you can write well with typos and mistakes, you run the risk of distracting the reader to a point where that good story becomes not so good because it’s unreadable. Ultimately, the success of things like your voice and your characters are going to be up to your reader and you’ll never please everyone. But we can take some steps to ensure we please more people than not.
That’s great—our fiction should reflect the world as it is and that means including people of various ethnic backgrounds and skin tones. But the history of writing about people of color is kind of… awful and it’s important to remember that you can’t just throw in a BIPOC character without giving some serious thought to how you represent and describe that character.